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Farmers forced to sell cattle at low prices as drought bites

By MICHAEL SAITOTI And PATRICK BEJA | Published Sat, January 7th 2017 at 00:00, Updated January 6th 2017 at 22:16 GMT +3
Shortage of animal feed in Samburu County force farmers to sell cattle at low prices. (Photo: Courtesy)

There is such a serious shortage of animal feed in Samburu County, livestock farmers are appealing to the government to intervene.

“I appeal to county and national governments to step in and distribute grass to pastoralists for their cattle. If they fail to do so, I am afraid we might lose our cattle before February because of the biting drought,” said Edward Losenge, a resident of Loosuk.

He lamented that pastures in the region have dried following a severe drought that started late last year and seems to be worsening.

Locals in the area said they have been depending on grass planted at former Samburu West MP Simeon Lesirma’s farm but now even that stock has been depleted.

Greedy brokers

“Lesirma has saved us a lot. If it were not for his kind gesture, our cattle could have succumbed to drought. Things are bad. We cannot remember the last time we saw rainfall here,” said Lerankes Lengoseg, a livestock keeper.

According to Lengoseg, the former MP has reserved the remaining 900 bales of grass for his cattle after selling more than 70 per cent of his stock to residents at Sh300 per bale.

Like in Samburu, the drought situation in the rest of the country is so dire, farmers have resorted to desperate means for their animals to survive.

In Tana River, the situation is so grave, residents are appealing to the government to buy their livestock because as it is, chances are high they may die because of hunger.

But desperate as they maybe, they are pushing for a decent offer for their animals.

“I ask government to create a profitable market for our cattle and goats. Even though we are selling them at throw away prices, we are asking the buyers not to take advantage of our desperation and cash in on our misery,” he said.

Because of the current state of affairs, some people are even taking advantage of the situation.

Brokers in Tana River are capitalizing on the ongoing livestock culling programme to make a kill from the project aimed at assisting the over 120,000 pastoralists worst hit by drought.

Humanitarian work

The programme which begun his week was meant to support the desperate pastoralists by buying their livestock, slaughtering them and sharing the meant among members of the community.

However, greedy brokers want to turn it into a business by taking advantage of the situation.

Their aim is to turn the humanitarian work initiated by the Kenya Red Cross Society into a profit making venture at the expense of the locals.

And in another desperate case, a group of brokers influenced residents of Buwa, a remote village at the border of Tana River and Garissa counties to reject the cash from Kenya Red Cross Society in exchange of their emaciated animals.

The Sh7.5 million project targets pastoralists from remote areas to buy cattle, sheep and goats and slaughter them before they die from drought.

The money is given to farmers and then the livestock slaughtered and distributed to the community around the area identified.

In Buwa village, the residents who had brought young cattle and goats insisted that they wanted to sell them at a fixed price of Sh15,000 for a cow and Sh5000 for a goat.

Efforts by Kenya Red Cross officer in charge of Coast Hassan Musa together with the area chief and other local officials to explain to the pastoralists the nature of the programme proved futile as they demanded for more money.

Save the situation

“We were informed that they will be buying the livestock at a fixed price. We shall not accept anything less than Sh15,000 for the cattle or Sh5000 for the goats,” said one of the locals.

It appeared the locals had been incited by the brokers who normally buy cattle from them.

A local versed with the trade said the brokers buy the cattle at a cheap price and sell at a higher price.

The Kenya Red Cross Society last week experienced nearly the same scenario at Bangali about 80 kilometres from Madogo along the Garissa Nairobi high way while undertaking the de-stocking programme.

The Red Cross official  said their mission is to ensure pastoralists get the money for selling their livestock without the brokers interfering with the process.

“This is humanitarian work, but the brokers want to make a kill out of the situation. We are trying to save a desperate situation yet some people want to make profit,’’ he said.

These desperate times are bound to continue in the coming months as experts have warned that the rains may delay in the coming planting season.